Insights into the ‘forgotten’ Gen X customer

Yahoo Canada study dives into a powerful but overlooked cohort

Rebecca Harris June 14, 2016

Generation X’s days of smelling like teen spirit are long behind them—the cohort is now firmly planted in middle age. Despite being in their prime earning years, however, Gen Xers are often ignored by marketers.

A recent survey of 1,000 Gen Xers by Yahoo Canada found that 22% feel like their generation is often forgotten about by advertisers, and 27% said advertising targeting specifically at their generation doesn’t reflect their experience.

“In the [marketing] industry, it’s all about millennials. They’re very popular targets for all products… and even boomers are a key audience,” said Shannon Kelley, senior research analyst at Yahoo Canada. “It’s as if Gen X is indeed forgotten about and we know that shouldn’t be the case.”

Gen Xers, who range in age from 35 to 50, total 7.2 million Canadians. Most are employed (83%) and are homeowners (70%). The average annual household income of Gen X is $102,000 compared to $71,000 for millennials and $98,000 for baby boomers, according to data from Environics Analytics.

“Even though Generation X is a bit smaller than the boomer and millennial cohorts, they’re in their peak earning years and have a higher household income,” said Kelley. “That in itself makes them a really important target. Beyond that, they’re well educated—42% have a university undergraduate degree—and they’re super savvy consumers.”

THE DIGITAL HABITS OF GEN X

Yahoo Canada’s survey found that Gen Xers regularly consume seven different categories of digital content. The top topics consumed in the past month using any device are: weather (68%), news (62%), music (50%), travel (39%), sports (35%) and finance (33%).

More than 90% of Gen Xers have researched products in the month. Top product categories researched online are: travel (47%), clothing/apparel (43%), electronics (40%) and food or beverages (36%).

The group is also tech and social media savvy. Almost all Gen Xers (99%) use some form of social media, and the top activities are consuming content (71%), sharing or reposting content posted by others (42%), and creating or sharing their own content (29%). Eighty-six percent of Gen Xers are smartphone users and 91% of Gen X smartphone users use it daily.

“A lot of emphasis is placed on millennials being super tech savvy, so it’s important [for marketers] to remember that in fact, Gen Xers are as well,” said Kelley.

THE SANDWICH GENERATION

The survey also looked at the life-stage responsibilities of Gen X— they’re often looking after their children and aging parents—as well their lifestyle attitudes and economic realities. Some of the key findings are:

Kelley recommends marketers use a “multi-touchpoint strategy” to reach Generation X. “This group is going across devices, across platforms and across content types. Make sure your message is there as well,” she said.

Beyond that, marketers should “show an understanding that you get them because they feel they have been overlooked,” said Kelley. One creative strategy, for example, would be to bring in nostalgia and cultural references that are pertinent to them, said Kelley.

The report also recommends offering “real, relatable, practical advice,” since Gen X is time-starved and appreciative of tips and tools to make their lives easier. In addition, marketers can engage Gen Xers with “kick my feet up fantasies:” building on the fantasy of having a moment to oneself with nothing to do.